As a lawyer in Atlanta who specializes in dental malpractice and dental nerve injuries, the following struck me as curious: A 72-year-old man could not figure out what was wrong with his throat. Following a minor operation on his abdomen, he had been in pain, coughing up blood and unable to swallow solid food for almost a week.
But when emergency room doctors examined the back of the man’s throat, they found nothing unusual. After ordering a chest X-ray and blood tests, they told the man he had a lower respiratory tract infection, and he was sent home with medication. The pain, doctors said, was likely a lingering side effect from having a tube inserted in his throat during the surgery.
It wasn’t until the man’s condition worsened, prompting a second trip to the emergency room, that doctors finally discovered the real source of his symptoms: His dentures, which he thought were lost during an operation eight days earlier, had actually been lodged in his throat the entire time, according to an article published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Case Reports.
Clearly, this is no laughing matter. Directly to this poor man’s situation, the anesthesiologist is responsible for determining if the man wears dentures and removing them prior to administering anesthesia for the procedure that was performed.
What is probably more noteworthy, is that many dental procedures are performed in the U.S. that lead to complications and even death. Many of these complications, and certainly most of the anesthesia related deaths during dental procedures, could have been avoided. First and foremost, the question must be asked: does the dental procedure require general anesthesia or would a local anesthetic (i.e., a nerve block using any number of safe drugs such as Lidocaine) be sufficient. Second, who is in charge of the general anesthesia? In most dental offices, it is the dentist who is performing the dental procedure and/or a nurse practitioner. This could lead to problems as the dentist may be pre-occupied with the procedure (such as performing a complicated extraction, repairing a damaged nerve or repairing a fracture in the jaw) and the nurse practitioner may not have the training and skills to adequately deal with a general anesthesia complication.
Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, professional negligence, car accidents and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been severely injured or died as a result of negligence for over 25 years. He practices in the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb counties in Georgia and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Stone Mountain. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.